By Bob Stein
In the August edition of Siesta Sand, Dr. Gary Kompothecras of “1-800-Ask Gary” discussed numerous topics from his arrival on Siesta Key, his background in starting his business to the newly acquired Bank of America building. To read this article you can go online at http://siestasand.net/a-conversation-with-dr-gary-kompothecras/
Siesta Sand followed up with another Q&A session with Kompothecras, zeroing in on the new proposed parking structure and hotel on Old Stickney Point Road.
In the August edition of Siesta Sand, you discussed converting the old Bank of America building located on Stickney Point Road next to CB’s into a mixed use commercial and parking structure. How tall will this structure be? Also, where would the commercial area be located in this structure?
Currently the zoning district permits a height of 35 feet, and our preliminary design is guided by that limit. However, we have spoken with Sarasota County Public Works, and as a stakeholder in their parking study we sought to explore whether the County would be interested in modifications that would result in additional parking or that would better move traffic to Stickney Point. Unfortunately it is too early in their study efforts to provide me with any guidance. Any increase in parking spaces would require an increase in height. Because the garage will be part of the application for the hotel special exception I am concerned that adding another special exception request will only complicate matters and give opponents something else to latch onto. I am willing to consider further investments which will assist with parking challenges, but the bureaucracy associated with zoning doesn’t help to get a mutually acceptable plan.
Will you be leasing out portions of the structure?
The concept that we are working with contains 5000 square feet of commercial space.
How many parking spots will be available in the new structure?
Approximately 180 spaces within current height and setback limits.
Will the parking structure be able to be accessed from both Stickney Point Road and Old Stickney Point Road?
The site is narrow which makes ingress and egress planning for a building of this type a challenge. The concept currently shows ingress and egress off of Old Stickney Point, but I prefer to have the egress be on Stickney Point. This creates some design challenges and is one of the issues that we have spoken with County Public Works transportation planners about. As you know, the County and State are currently negotiating to transfer ownership of Midnight Pass and Stickney Point to the County. Until that transfer is complete, it will be difficult for the County to be the sole decision maker on this matter.
Is this parking structure just for the new hotel or will this be open to the general public? If it is open to the public, how much will you be charging and how many parking spots will be open to the general public?
A portion of the garage will be dedicated to serve the hotel and the commercial space planned for the garage. It is too early to say what the likely parking charges might be.
Will the parking structure be built before the hotel?
That is a possibility, but it is a little too early to say for sure. As indicated previously we would like to work with the County should additional parking be a desired outcome, but I am concerned about the complexities that would entail. If the parking garage is built at 35 feet or less in height, the garage and commercial space are allowed by right in the current zoning. So all we would have to do is to produce construction and site drawings and have them approved through the County’s building process. As I understand it, no additional County Commission considerations would be necessary.
Many residents have feared that the new proposed hotel will be built two feet from the sidewalk. Is there any merit to their fear?
I heard the community concerns. And despite the fact that the County zoning regulations encourage a more pedestrian oriented design with building close to the street. A hotel and associated parking structure could be designed and still be an aesthetically pleasing asset. However, we find ourselves being the first guinea pig testing the real world general acceptance of the Siesta Key Community plan and implementing Siesta Key Overlay District Zoning regulations. That plan is over ten years old. I am the first one who risked trying to explore if the County Commission and the community were really committed to that plan. Reaction so far suggests that they are somewhat hesitant, and that is a real shame because it is a good plan. By buying the bank, at considerable expense by the way, we have been able to design a hotel that meets ALL of the more restrictive suburban setback limits within the CG zone, abanding any attempt to trust in and utilize the setback scheme suggested by the Siesta Key Overlay District.
How tall are you proposing the building to be, with how many rooms? Will the rooms vary in size?
The building height will fall below the maximum height of 85 feet established for CG/SKOD zoning, and will be indistinguishable from adjacent buildings. The number of rooms will be discussed with the County Commission as part of our Special Exception request. There is an art to programing the mix for hotel rooms in a boutique resort environment. The rooms will be programmed in a resort mix of Queen/ Queen and King rooms (generally 3 times more Queen/Queens than Kings), with a few suites available as part of the mix.
How many nights will be the minimum stay?
There will be no minimum stay requirements as a general rule.
What amenities will your patrons receive staying at the hotel? (breakfast, exercise room, pool and taxi services on and off the island) Will the rooms have partial kitchens?
There will be no kitchens. Like almost all hotels built today, there will be a limited breakfast service. There will be a workout facility with a pool and cabana rentals. A few small meeting rooms and a modest sized events room is also part of the plan. Of course ride sharing, taxi and free ride services and the Siesta Trolley will be able to access the property on Old Stickney Point Rd. As you know, I own a free ride service called the Frog Hopper, which I see as being intimately connected to the hotel experience.
Will the hotel have a restaurant or bar in it? Will it be open to the general public?
There will be no restaurant. There will be a small lobby bar. There are plenty of local restaurants within walking distance and I don’t want to compete with them. I want the entire South Bridge Village to benefit.
Will the design of the hotel have any unique characteristics’ to set it apart?
I believe that the design aesthetics will reflect Sarasota’s contemporary modernistic architecture heritage.
You mentioned in the August interview that you would like to have a place to hold modest sized events; weddings, graduations and other events. What size parties will the hall accommodate and where will it be located in the building?
The size of the parties will be limited by fire code limitations on the number of people that can be accommodated in a specific space. That is why I say it will be a modest sized space which under the current design concept will handle roughly 400 people seated.
Will the parties renting the hall be able to have the event catered from anyone they wish or will they have to go through the hotel?
That operational detail has not been discussed as of this time.
When do you hope to have the hotel up and running?
Yesterday? In reality, given the time it will take to go through zoning hearings, the time it will take to complete construction drawings, the time required for permitting and the time required for construction, we are talking sometime in 2022.
Do you have any closing statements to the businesses and residents near the projects?
Yes. I have tried to listen to their concerns and to adapt. At the same time, the economic pressures facing an ever desirable Sarasota County are not going to abate. The South Bridge Village is going to undergo change no matter what. I could build a large bar and restaurant on the property right now, frankly on both properties, with only a building permit. Bob’s Boathouse taught us that this is not the best long term plan for the Village. I want to provide an element that will bring business to the other businesses in the Village, to provide some much needed parking, and working with the County and residents to improve the street environment on Old Stickney Point Rd. Working with the property owners in the main village, the County made significant improvements to the look and feel in that area. We in the South Bridge Village deserve the same attention, and I hope that my investment, my willingness to take a big risk, will be the catalyst that garners that attention.